R& VS R8 Buying???

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I'm thinking of buying Leica and getting into the R system with two zooms (28-70 and 70-210, because of the range they provide) to start with and adding some primes later on and using it sometimes, actually as much as possible for work. But I can't decide which R body to buy a R7 or R8? (with a winder on either body) I like the flash options of the R8 but I also like to size of the R7. Your comments and opinions would be most helpful.

Thank You John

-- John Miller (vwbus1967@earthlink.net), May 10, 2001


Personally in your shoes and as you are thinking of auto cameras I would go for the R8. Unlike the R7 - it seems to me to be a real "from the bottom up" Leica design, unlike the R7 which has a number of features accreted up from the R3 onwards. I got the R6 rather than the R7 as I thought that was too big, but the R8 is wonderfully ergonomic. Personally I would enjoy the 1/250th sec flash synch and also the up to 16s shutter speeds on manual, also if you want to use it as a point and shoot or on auto it probably works much better than the R7 as it has matrix metering. Jay has pointed out some irritating features of the autowinder though I have to say.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 10, 2001.

I am going to get flamed here, but I would offer this opinion. Many of us Leica users, (especially M guys), put up with some minor annoyances with the bodies... so we can enjoy the optics. We probably spend too much money, but justify it in our minds because we are certain that we can't get too much of a better image on film.

Your initial lens selection, in my opinion would not be a justification for the money spent. The "big two" Japanese companies offer faster, better optics for the price, and since you are committed to a battery dependant camera, an F5 or EOS 3n would be faster handling and more versatile.

The 28-70 is simply an expensive, slow aperture, re-badged Sigma design, of average performance, (see Erwin Puts, "Leica Lens Compendium", pg 202), while the 70-210 f/4.0 is a Minolta design offering the expected performance of a lens of this specification, (see pg 211).

You can get world class Leica zoom lenses, the 70-180 f/2.8 is winning praise for its performance, beating some fixed lenses, and it only costs 5000 dollars! You can't get any wide-angle zoom in the f/2.8 range from Leica.

If you were initially asking about a system that would let you use the best 50mm f/1.4 lens, or the highest performing 100mm macro, I'd say welcome to the world of Leica. For moderate overlapping zooms and sophisticated flash operation, do some comparison shopping. As an M user, I am locked into Leica. My SLR system starts with an "N" not "L"... not only because of finances, but operation and performance... OK, and finances.

These are just my opinions, ignore them if you wish.

-- Al Smith (smith58@msn.com), May 10, 2001.

As a follow up to Al's point. He does have a point in some ways. I do not use zooms of any description, so I enjoy using the superb fixed focal length lenses that the R system provides. But I do understand that the 35-70 and the 80-400 (as well as the 70-180) and I think the 100-280 are Leica designs and are probably superior to the Nikon/Canon equivalents - but at a price. There is also a new wide angle zoom R coming too. The 28-70 is a Sigma based design, so probably it is not so good as a homegrown Leica product. Likewise the older 70-210m is a Minolta design.

One of the interesting things about zooms is that in the early days they used to be faster, but now smaller maximum apertures are the norm, unless you pay really big bucks and this includes Nikon and Canon. I am not sure whether this is because manufacturers realize that many zooms are not good wide open or whether because they have decided that most consumers use 400 speed films so they can save weight and money by making their consumer zooms f4.5 or so and no one will notice.

Certainly if zooms really are your thing then your choice in the R system are much more limited than either Canon or Nikon.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 10, 2001.

" and the 80-400 (as well as the 70-180)"

Some zoom! I meant 80-200.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 10, 2001.

First, let me echo the sentiment of others who pointed out that the 28-70 and 70-210 performance is nothing you need to pay Leica prices and deal with the body quirks for. The current 35-70/4 and 80-200/4 will not set you back a whole lot more, and although they are manufactured in Japan they are Leica-designed and from my experience, both stellar performers. Add to that a 1st-generation 28 Elmarit or a 21/4 S/A and you have a superb R outfit at not-too-obnoxious cost.

To the body issue, I have R6, 6.2, 7 and 8, and all have their virtues and foibles. The R8 is wider (L-R) than the R7 but not a lot taller or thicker (at the center, the R7 is more angular). It is definitely heavier but unless you carry 3 bodies (where 2 R8 = 3 R7) you won't really notice it. The overall features of the R8, while still not Leica-quirk-free, are more mainstream 90's-00's-SLR. The loading is faster, the metering/exposure modes are more flexible, the shutter speed range and flash sync is more useful. And, you can get a new R8, with a 5 year warranty, whereas with an R7 (still quite pricey) you're on your own after 60-90 days at best. I hung onto my R7 as a second body because I already had one; were I buying today I'd get 2 R8's unquestionably. I also have an extensive Nikon AF system based on F5 and F100 bodies, which I use mainly for wildlife/nature work with mostly long, fast glass and a couple zooms (including the new 80-400VR). In general I find most of the less- specialized "consumer" Nikon AF lenses a bit too loose and wiggly for my taste.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 10, 2001.

Another vote for the 35-70, which is an excellent lens, and as sharp as any of the competition. This is not a Sigma lens, as is the 28-70, but a Leica designed, built by Kyrocera unit (Kyrocera as in Contax), that is superb. As well I've used or owned a number of their fixed focus lenses and find them to be definitely sharper than the Nikkors I used in the past, in most cases. It boils down to how badly you need A/F. In my humble opinion, no one really needs autofocus, though to hear some opinions on the matter, you would wonder how we ever took photographs pre-1982. But if you are a sports or wildlife photographer it can definitely be handy. Yes you are buying the system for the glass (as was mentioned previously), and the Leica R glass equals the M in optics. It also doesn't take a rocket scientist, upon picking up an R lens and a current A/F Canon or Nikkor to discover how these lenses are able to autofocus so fast. They're light -- as in made almost entirely (save the glass) of plastic. And from my own experience (I have business dealings with 1/2 dozen photojournalist), the new A/F lenses wear out after 3 or 4 years of heavy use. Of course most will never use there equipment this hard, but it still holds true, you buy a Leica for life. You bought an F2 era Nikon for life, but no more.

-- Bob Todrick (bobtodrick@yahoo.com), May 10, 2001.

I just got a chance to handle the current Contax line of SLR bodies, and was very impressed with them. If you're going to be using a Contax built zoom, might as well save some money and buy the Contax body as well. The Zeiss SLR lenses are at least as good as the Leica ones optically, if not quite up to the mechanical standard. That's the thing that impressed me the most about the Leica R equipment, is how well built (and heavy) the lenses were.

-- Andrew Schank (aschank@flash.net), May 10, 2001.

One reason for buying Leica R over Contax is economic, not photographic, even if you're buying used where Contax is less expensive than Leica. The market for Contax is very slow, according to every dealer I've spoken with. If you want or need to re-sell Contax be prepared to wait, or to wholesale it to a dealer. Leica always sells. For someone who buys cameras and lenses to keep forever, it's a non-issue, but how many of us are in that group?

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 10, 2001.

Contax lens construction for their SLR cameras has always seemed to me very inferior compared to the Leica-Rs. In fact they feel a world away from the solidity of an R lens. I also would tend to agree with Jay. The Contax secondhand market is not nearly as well developed at Leica. I can't really comment on their optical quality, but my prejuduce would be that optically they are very good. Of course, I notice that Contax have changed their lens mount with their latest SLR, so the MM line )or whatever it is called) may be consigned to the dustbin of history.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 11, 2001.

Yet another Dear John letter, I just invested a lot of research into the R system.

I bought the R8 and have grown to love it. I have used it for about two months but I put a lot of film through it. I did buy it used but it is perfect.

After a bit of back and forth the lenses I can atest to and recommend are: 24 f2.8 -latest version 60mm Macro -one of the world's great "normal" lenses. Sharp and you have the macro. 90mm f2.8 (with sliding lens shade). Very reasonable to buy used and sharp enough to cut yourself on.

180 f3.4 -a must have Leica R lens. Small, light and cracklin' sharp starting with wide open. The 35Summicron f2 is also a star.

The 50 Summicron is a beauty and easy to find for little (in Leica terms) money.

The 100 macro is, according to all and Leica, one of the best lenses ever made by anyone. But, this boy is a bit heavy so I find the compact 90mm f2.8 and the 60mm macro a lot easier to lug around.

Have fun. You will not regret doing this. I have used Canon for years and love them dearly for work. The R glass is like the M glass.

I know nothing of the zooms except that zooms are not Leica's thing. M glass/ R glass refers to prime lenses.

I have heard great things, however, about the 80-200 f4 and the 35-70 f 4 that are the current models. Really, who needs a 35-70mm? What a limiting range for a lot of money.

Best wishes,

Bob Burgess www.rburgessphoto.com

-- Robert Burgess (bobburgess@earthlink.net), May 11, 2001.

I have a different opinion of the 180/3.4 APO-Telyt based on now four samples of the lens (all late E60 versions including one very late ROM version). In all cases and at all apertures outdoor images with the 3.4 show obviously less shadow detail less punch in especially green foliage, as compared to the 2 samples of the non-APO 180/2.8 I currently own. The corner sharpness of the 2.8 lags behind the APO at 3.4 at most distances, but by f5.6-f8 (where most outdoor daylight shots are going to be) the 180/2.8 gives a much more "alive" image. Perhaps this is due to th APO having been designed for a defense contract, as a surveillance lens, where ultimate image detail at longer distances was maximized above all other considerations, particularly scenic photography on color reversal film. An added bonus, the 180/2.8 takes both the 2xAPO and 1.4xAPO, which can also be stacked together, effectively providing 180/250/360 and 500mm lenses.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 11, 2001.

"The corner sharpness of the 2.8 lags behind the APO at 3.4 at most distances, but by f5.6-f8 (where most outdoor daylight shots are going to be) the 180/2.8 gives a much more "alive" image."

I shoot my 180 Apo usually at f4.5 @1/500 for 50 ASA K64 (in full sun), and find this necessary to get a razor sharp image when hand held, 1/250 does not really work. When the light gets lower then I am often working at full aperture. If Jay is usually shooting at apertures smaller than f5.6 (i.e. using faster film) then this might well account for the different perceptions that Jay has on this lens compared to what most of the rest of us seem to find. Certainly Leica always used to say that the performance of the 180mm was so good full open that stopping down was not really necessary to extract best performance from the lens. In my experience this is only a very slight exaggeration.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 11, 2001.

Regarding the(APO) 180 3.4 lens , I never meant to say it will out perforrm the current APO 180 f2 or the f2.8 ( which Erwin Puts likes even better). But the 3.4 is a great deal for the weight and money. I have had nothing but glorious results from it and do shoot mostly at 5.6 or f8. Anyway, I apprceciate reading about everyone's experiences with this stuff.

Any good projects going on out there? Might be fun to see everyone's backyard, street or something.


-- Robert Burgess (bobburgess@earthlink.net), May 11, 2001.

I am shooting film between ISO 25 and 100 for landscapes and I am using a solid tripod 100% of the time. The 180/2.8 gives me much richer images with a much broader tonal range, especially in shadow areas, than the 180/3.4. When I do shoot handheld as a last-ditch option (a table tripod is my constant companion and whenever and wherever I can get solid support I use it)it would probably be for people-photography, where the near-focus limit of the 180 APO would be an annoyance, not to mention that it was designed for maximum performance at long distance. I would have happily grabbed up the first used 180/2.8 APO I could find, had someone not alerted me to the fact that it can not use the 1.4xAPO teleconverter. Mostly the only reason I carry the 180/2.8 now is for the flexibility with 1.4, 2x or both converters; otherwise the 80-200/4 zoom is my 1st choice.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), May 11, 2001.

The reason of buying Leica R camera is Leica R has the best performaing lenses in the world.

Chasseur d'Image has done extensive lens tests on major lens manufacturers, including Leica, Carl Zeiss, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax using computer controlled automated MTF test stations and pusblished detailed test lens test reports, detailing definition, distortion, color balance, length, weight, lens formular (X lens Y group ) and finally a summary performance index in number of stars, 5 stars the best, the worst 2 stars.

Leica R has far more ***** star lenses then Nikon /Canon

Amd there are far more ***** star R lenses then M lens

That is one major of reason of buying R, it has the best lenses line in optic as well as in all metal construction.

In camera technology, such ass AF, etc, Canon/Nikon are certainly twenties years ahead of Leica R.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 13, 2001.

John for rating of 28-70 and 70 210 zoom see thread martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 13, 2001.


see thread zoom lens

Leica 28-70 zoom is the best zoom in this range

Leica 70-210 zoom is among the best of that range

Leica zoom lenses have the best construction, all metal body and internal clams, vs metal +plastic of other makes

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 13, 2001.

The Leica 35-70/4 is better than the 28-70. The 80-200/4 (last) is much better than the 70-210. There is a 21-35 coming.

If you are doing fill-in flash or portrait, the R8 is the best (1/250s synchro and 1/8000s top speed are assets IMO).

If not, the R7 is okay.

I much prefer the handling of the R8. The R7 slip out of my hands when used without motor.

-- lucien (lucien@ubi.edu), May 14, 2001.

Many people prefer the 35-70 because it was Leica design, --- a German design.

But a German test lab tested it otherwise

Bamim Schultze Laboratory in German tested the Leica 35-70 zoom and rated it a 9.0 not even as good as a Tamron 28-70 at 9.2 Leica 28-70 at 9.6 is among the highest of any zoom lenses tested

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 14, 2001.

The build quality of 28-70 and 35-70 are among the hightest, rated 9.6

Even though 35-70 optical performance is not as good as 35-70 however it is much more expensive, which often lead people to identify higher price means higher quality, actually not, it cause more because it cost more to make in Germany

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 14, 2001.

The same brand, same product, if made in Germany cost much more

A few years ago I bought a genuine made in Germany Wetzlar Emoscop (a hand multi use loupe and hand held microscope ), it cost me USD$120

Last year, the production was moved to Hong Kong, using the same German machine and German technique and quality control, the price of this Emoscop drop down to USD$20 !

I say to myself, I paid extra for a "genuine" German product. ha ha.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 14, 2001.


When I decided to purchase the R8 a few months ago, I was already an R7 user, having previously acquired a used body and a few excellent R lenses (24/2.8, 35/2, 60/2.8, 90/2.8 and 180/4). In fact, it was the superior optics that had led me down the Leica R route in the first place.

My main reasons for deciding to upgrade from R7 to R8 were as follows:

(a) I wanted a new camera with a 5 year warranty; my R7 was already more than 5 years old. I was also offered a very attractive price of US$1100, here in Indonesia.

(b) The R8 body is a more comfortable shape for my hands and, despite its additional weight of about 200 grams, I find it easier to hold than the R7. The extra weight is only a minor factor when you attach one of the heavier R lenses and the R8 seems better balanced.

(c) The R8 controls are a little better set out and I find them quite intuitive.

(d) The R8 allows the use of any of its 3 metering methods (selective, muli-pattern or center-weighted) with any of the 4 exposure modes (manual, aperture priority, shutter priority or program). The R7 has restrictions in the combinations of metering method and exposure mode that could be selected; the R7 also lacks muli-pattern metering, although that was of less importance to me personally.

(e) I found the information in the R8 viewfinder to be clearer, owing to the use of a white LCD display instead of the rather dim red LEDs of the R7; I found the R7 LEDs for manual mode particularly difficult to see. The layout of the R8 display is easier to scan at a glance, being concentrated at the foot of the viewfinder window instead of spreading along both the bottom and the right-hand side as in the R7.

(f) The R8 has an easier-to-use mirror + aperture pre-fire. Just move a lever on the front of the camera to the mirror lock-up position, press the shutter release once to pre-fire the mirror and aperture, then press the shutter release again to take the shot. (And remember to reset the prefire lever when you're done!) You can also use it in combination with the self-timer. Mirror lock-up in the R7 is awkward, needing a second cable release to lock up the mirror, with no option to release the shutter with the self-timer.

(g) Flash control in the R8 is more flexible, mainly because it uses the SCA 3000 (digital) system instead of the SCA 300 (analog) system of the R7. This meant I could still use my Metz 32-Z2 flashgun but I had to buy an SCA 3501 adapter. This adapter has built-in flash compensation switches, enabling better control of fill-flash.

(h) Pre-flash metering is another important feature of the R8. This allows you to meter the illumination from any flashgun(s), using selective metering, prior to taking the shot and to adjust the aperture of the lens accord to the reading displayed.

(i) The R8's faster flash synchronization of 1/250 second is a welcome improvement over 1/100 second in the R7 and I have found this particularly useful for daylight fill-flash.

Other features of the R8 that I considered useful, but that did not particularly influence my choice, included the option of first or second shutter curtain flash synchronization and a broader range of shutter speeds than the R7, selectable manually in half-step increments from 16 sec to 1/8000 sec or automatically in stepless increments from 32 sec to 1/8000 sec.

One irritating thing I found with the R8, however, is that I can't see the frame counter unless the meter display is activated. If the camera is switched off or "resting" between shots, I can't see how many frames I've used. Furthermore, the camera loses its memory if you change batteries or attach/detach a winder or motor drive part way through a film, as a resujlt of which it resets the frame counter to 1. This design seems particularly mindless and I much prefered the mechanical frame counter in the R7.

All in all, I consider the R8 to be superior to the R7. While some glitches occurred in the early production of the R8, these have long since been ironed out by Leica and it can now be considered a reliable product.

Regards, Ray

-- Ray Moth (ray_moth@yahoo.com), May 15, 2001.

I have the greatest doubt about the serious of BAS laboratory lens tests.

Even if Leica use to give them as a brochure to their dealers for marketing purpose.

IMO, the 35-70/4 is a better lens than both version of the 28-70, and this has nothing to do with German or Japanese design, but with design alone.


-- lucien (lucien@ubi.edu), May 15, 2001.

> There are far more ***** star R lenses then M lens


I don't agree with that.

AFAIK, the 21/2,8, 24/2,8, 28/2, 35/1,4, 35/2, 50/2, 75/1,4, 90/2, 90/2,8 and 135/3,4 for M are better or at least equal to the 21/4, 24/2,8, 28/2,8, 35/1,4, 35/2, 50/2, 80/1,4, 90/2, 90/2,8, 100/2,8 and 135/2,8 for R. Only the new 50/1,4 is better in the R version.

The superb 19/2,8, Apo 180/2,8, 280 etc.. don't exist in the M line.


-- lucien (lucien@ubi.edu), May 15, 2001.


What is basis for your statement ? Supported by any lens test data or your own opinion ?

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 15, 2001.


Chasseur d'Images' tests, Erwin Puts' tests and my own use of M and R lenses (not at all scientific, but, more often than not, consistent with the two others).

Now, don't misundertand me, the R lenses are truly excellent. But with the exception of the M 50mm's and the 75, all the M lenses are from the latest generation. This not the case of all the R lenses. The 15, 16, 21, 24, 35, 50/2, 60, 80, 90/2, 135, could be improved or replaced.

Regarding the BAS tests, which are used by a leading German magazine, the results were sometimes, let say, mmmhhh..."strange".

My favorite tests they made was first the 110% they gave to the 180/2 and second, and when they didn't found degradation of the quality with the APO Extender 2X.

Their tests of the Voigtlander/Cosina lenses was also "surprising".


-- lucien (lucien@ubi.edu), May 15, 2001.

Martin, I would have to say that the majority of thinking is that the 35-70 F4 is a better lens, in a number of areas (I have used both the 37-70 and the 28-70 fairly extensively). Maybe in the lens test you quote the 28-70 has a better rating. But how do you answer all the people who have test to back their claims that their Nikkor or Canon is as sharp or superior to Leica glass? Of course that's when we haul out the subjective reasonings like bokeh and creamines of contrast. Same thing here. Though there are test out there extolling the virture of the 35-70 as well (http://www.imx.nl/photosite/leica/rseries/testr/ve43570.html), there are the subjective matters that make a difference. I use my R sometimes in the studio, with up to a five light setup, and especially with 'chrome, the constant F4 aperture is a godsend. On the 28-70 do you know at exactly what focal lenght the aperture starts to decrease? As well I have found the macro setting on the 35-70 very handy at times. In all an excellent perfoming lens. As for lens tests they must be taken with a grain of salt, to some degree. In an accuracy test the Samsung quartz watch given me by my company last year is an excellent timepiece. Is it a better watch than my Rolex (accurate to about 5 minutes a month)?

-- Bob Todrick (bobtodrick@yahoo.com), May 15, 2001.


I agree that Leica R could do with some new lenses. As you point out, some need an update: 90mm (all are currently discontinued), 135mm (also discontinued), 21mm is gone too (replaced by the excellent 19mm), the 24mm (perhaps). However, I am not sure that any new 35mm or 50mm are needed. The 50mm Summicron-R is still a top performer (like the M- Summicron), perhaps a new 35mm Summicron could be introduced to match the Summicron-M Asph, but the Summicron-R is still an excellent performer. Certainly, a new 90mm/2 is needed and perhaps a 135mm, although I think Leica need a really good 35-100mm zoom - they would probabaly need to license it as they did with the 28-70mm. The 80mm Summilux is still an excellent lens and I am not sure this really needs to be redesigned as I am not sure that a meaningful improvement can be made without incurring a huge cost (the M-75mm falls into the same category).

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 15, 2001.

Martin's statements about the 28-70mm baffled me too, but I think what he is saying is that in the exact 28-70mm zoom range the Sigma design is the best - so many camera manufacturers use it including Leica, likewise the older 70-210 design. The new 80-200mm is a different design all together but it is also a different focal length. It is indeed likely that, as he has pointed out, the Japanese often do have the best optical zoom designs and so all he is saying is that it is the best 28-70mm (exactly these focal lengths) around as it has the benefit of the better mechanical construction. Certainly the 35-70mm Solms design always seems to be better received in raw performance.

Martin do feel free to correct me if I misunderstood!

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), May 15, 2001.

Robin, in prime lens design, Leitz/Leica has many lens design patents, including the 35mm /1.4 M ASPH.

But in zoom lens, AFAIK, Leitz/Leica has so far no patent. All the zoom lens design patents are dominated by Japanese lens designers.

I think it is a good idea for Leica to subcontract out to Japanese lens manufacturers, then applied Leica QC standards.

Leica is still feeling its ways in zoom lens design, a case in point is Leica has abandoned the 28-70/f2.8 zoom, citing dificulties in tolerance control in manufacturing.

-- martin tai (martin.tai@capcanada.com), May 15, 2001.

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